US-Taliban agreement leaves Afghan women in jeopardy

The new so-called peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban does not mean peace for the people of Afghanistan — and especially not for Afghan women. We should recognize both their extraordinary gains since the 2001 fall of the Taliban as well as the fight to preserve those gains that lies ahead.

Americans have clearly and poignantly voiced frustration with “endless wars” and have long wanted to bring U.S. troops home safely. But we can celebrate the troops’ homecoming without deluding ourselves about what the agreement is — a U.S. bow to the Taliban and a body blow to millions of Afghan women, whose brutal oppression remains a hallmark of Taliban rule.

Not only did the peace negotiations exclude women — who make up a majority of the Afghan population — the resulting agreement comprises no guarantees to safeguard human rights or women’s rights, enshrined in a Constitution that the Taliban do not recognize.

I write novels about Afghanistan, the country of my parents’ birth, and gritty Afghan women. In 2016, a member of the Afghan Parliament, an obstetrician, attended one of my book tour stops in Australia. “Those were the darkest days,” she said, recalling life under Taliban rule. I think of her contributions to Afghanistan when I consider what’s at stake if the Taliban regain control.

I read the agreement aloud at my kitchen table. Every time I read the cumbersome phrase “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban,” my daughter stifled a laugh because — at age eight — she understands that an agreement with an entity that we as a nation do not recognize presents a metaphysical quandary.

Despite the awkward disclaimer, the document gave much legitimacy to the Taliban, who maintain they are the rightful government of Afghanistan and treat Afghan national security forces as the enemy.

The agreement, negotiated over the past year outside of Afghanistan and without the Afghan government, requires that the Taliban not provide visas or passports “to those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan.”

This implies that the Taliban can carry on issuing passports, as if they are a parallel government, to “benign” individuals. Since the document’s signing, President Trump has announced he would “be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not too distant future,” and that he has “a really good relationship with the Mullah,” co-founder of the Taliban.

Sidestepping the Afghan government has quickly proven problematic, with President Ashraf Ghani refusing to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as the agreement mandates.

Meanwhile, the signed agreement secured from the Taliban only a promise not to facilitate harm to the United States or its allies.

After the signing, Taliban spokesperson Mujahid told Agence France Presse: “As per the [U.S.-Taliban] agreement, our mujahideen will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces.” The Taliban then detonated a motorbike rigged with explosives near a football field and kidnapped 50 civilians in Maidan Wardak province.

We are left with a choice. Either we declare the existing Afghan government is not an ally, or the peace agreement is null and void before the ink has dried. Prospective failure is painful to contemplate. Imagine reality on the ground.

Millions of Afghan women, girls, and minorities are left again vulnerable to the extreme brutality, oppression, and discrimination that for years had made Afghanistan one of the world’s worst places to be born female.

Afghan women vow to protect their hard-won gains. As we leave them to grapple with a traumatic past and an uncertain future, we owe them an honest assessment of this historic moment — not a whitewashing of failure.

This isn’t a peace agreement. It’s an exit in which no one can take pride.

Afghan women have built schools, served in government, prosecuted criminals, reinvigorated the arts, delivered the news, de-mined land, saved lives, competed athletically and thrived as entrepreneurs. They have buried their dead and carried the living.

The next generation of Afghan daughters deserves to own the legacy of their mothers and grandmothers. They deserve acknowledgement that this shameful so-called peace deal, which President Trump hopes will help secure him a second term, failed to honor their rights, their contributions, or their very existence with even a single word.

Only an honest reckoning with how we have failed them in the present will empower Afghan women to claim their rightful place in Afghanistan’s future.

Nadia Hashimi, MD, is a pediatrician and novelist living in Maryland. She was born and raised in New York and New Jersey to parents who were born in Afghanistan but who left in the early 1970s before the Soviet invasion. Follow her on Twitter @nadiahashimi.

Tags Afghan peace process Afghanistan Afghanistan–United States relations Donald Trump Human rights in Afghanistan Taliban War in Afghanistan Women in Afghanistan

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